There is little we know about the Dark Ages. Yet, starting the year 1000, researchers have put together a brief history of Transylvania, a land for which many have fought. Throughout the centuries, it is said the land once belonged to the Dacians, ancestors of the Romanian people. Transylvania had been inhabited since then by Romanians, Hungarians, Saxons and Szeklers, ethnic groups that have left their legacies behind for those to follow, making this region one worth exploring.
In the year 1600, after being ruled under Turkish and Austrian suzerainty, the land of Transylvania was united for the first time to Moldova and Wallachia under the command of Mihai Viteazul, giving Romania the shape and boarders we know today. Even though this union did not last long and the wars kept on being fought for this region, starting the year 1920 and the Treaty of Trianon, the territory became Romanian soil and still remains today as such.
During this time, cities were built and history was written. Most of the buildings, fortresses and churches that still exist today, no matter the origin, tell stories of the past. And the biggest cities of today’s Transylvania were the most important cities in the region throughout history.
Initially inhabited by Saxons, Sibiu was Transylvania’s capital between the years 1692-1791 and 1849-1865, while in 2007, along with Luxemburg, the city was named the “European Capital of Culture”.
The old city of Sibiu lies on the right bank of the Cibin River, on a hill situated at about 200 m from the river. It consists of two distinct entities: the Upper Town and the Lower Town.
The 2 parts of the city are connected by Ocnei Street, over which the Liar’s Bridge – the first bridge in Romania to have been cast in iron – was built in 1859.
Grand Square has been the center of the city since the 15th century. Being the biggest square in the city, as the name suggests, it houses the “Brukenthal Palace”, one of the most important Baroque monuments in Romania, built towards the end of the 18th century as the main residence for the Governor of Transylvania Samuel von Brukenthal. Next to the palace is the Blue House or Moringer House, an 18th-century Baroque house bearing the old coat of arms of Sibiu on its façade
The mayor’s office is located in an Art Nouveau building located in close vicinity to the Jesuit Church and the Council Tower, a former fortification tower from the 13th century that has been successively rebuilt over the years.
The Fortifications of Sibiu made the city one of the most important fortified cities in Central Europe and along some of them, descends The Passage of the Stairs, a picturesque corridor linking the two sides of the city.
Sighisoara Citadel, a 12th-century Saxon edifice, is the historic center of the city and still remains inhabited till nowadays.
Within the well-preserved walled Old Town, the 64 m-high Clock Tower stands since the 14th century and watches over the medieval sights of Sighisoara.
In close vicinity, you can search for the Bust of Vlad Tepes and find the ruler’s place of birth, as well as the Weapon Museum. From the same area, you can also climb the Covered Staircase – a very old stone staircase with a wooden roof along the whole span – to find the Church on the Hill and the Saxon Cemetery – behind its iron doors, century-old gothic tombstones lay in the shadows of tall, ancient trees.
You may have already noticed the pattern of every big city having an historic center, a big square to capture the most important landmark buildings and monuments. Cluj-Napoca is no exception! In Unirii Square rises the tallest church tower in Romania, built in a neo-gothic style in the 19th century, as part of the 14th century old Saint Michael’s Church, in front of which stands all the equestrian statue of King of Hungary, Matthias Corvinus.
In the same area, you can visit the National Museum of Art, as well as the Josika and Rhédey Palace. And if you want to go further in time, Roman and Dacian ruins can be observed from under the square through a glass screen.
Going outside the also called Museum Square, you can admire the “Transfiguration Cathedral”, built in the interwar era in the “Avram Iancu” square, as well as the “Palace of Justice“, built in the eclectic style between 1898 and 1902. As part of a whole, here you can also see the National Theater, Palace of the Romanian Railroads as well as the Palaces of Prefecture, of Finance and of the Orthodox Metropolis.
However, not only the buildings are worth visiting in the Youth European Capital of 2015. Cluj Napoca has one of the most beautiful Botanical Gardens in the country and many green spaces, the largest and most notable of them being the Central Park.
Brasov (cover photo)
Also known as “Transylvanian Gate” or the “Heart of Transylvania”, Brasov has a heart of its own. And that is the Council Square, from where you can see with the naked eye some of the most important landmarks in the city; sights like the Black Church – built by the German community in a gothic style – , the “Brasov Citadel Fortress” – built for defense purposes- and the Council House – the mayor’s former office building. You will also notice the Hollywood-like sign of Brasov on Tampa Mountain and, if you leave the main square towards it, you can walk on the narrowest street in Europe – The Rope Street. What you must not leave unvisited is the only original city gate to have survived the medieval ages, the Catharine’s Gate, while in its close vicinity lays the Schei Gate.